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Centre for Penal Theory and Ethics

Institute of Criminology

Judicial-Academic Seminars

In April 2016, the Centre was visited by Judge Christopher Maxwell, President of the Court of Appeal of Victoria (Australia). The opportunity was taken to organise a small judicial-academic roundtable which brought together members of the judiciary in England and Wales, Australia, Canada and Scotland, as well as academics from seven different jurisdictions (some of whom also had some judicial experience). The Cambridge roundtable provided an opportunity to explore the constitutional structures behind sentencing regimes, as well as the possibilities for guiding the exercise of sentencing discretion without constraining it inappropriately. On the one hand, sentencing judges may find their discretion curtailed by various legislative mechanisms that mandate particular sentencing outcomes or sentence enhancements. On the other hand, sentencing judges may find their sentencing options expanded through the introduction of new modes of punishment, including in cases where offenders are at risk of being sentenced to imprisonment (as occurred in the State of Victoria in Australia when, in 2012, the legislature restructured the disposal options open to courts under the banner of a new order, the ‘‘Community Correction Order’’). Arising from the seminar, a special issue of the leading journal the Criminal Law Forum (2017, volume 28, issue 3) was published, edited by Dr Antje du Bois-Pedain.

A further judicial-academic seminar of a different kind was held in December 2017, arising from Professor Bottoms’ review of the work of the Sentencing Council. At the Council's request, the Centre co-sponsored a one-day seminar on sentencing research and how it can best be used by the Council. The seminar, which was held at the Royal Courts of Justice and opened by Lord Justice Treacy (Chairman of the Sentencing Council) included a presentation on the Council's research and analysis work; presentations and discussion of two selected topics (researching consistency in sentencing; special issues arising in the sentencing of offenders with mental health problems); and an open-ended discussion of possible future research topics that might assist the Council's work.  At the seminar, it was announced that the Council plans to organise a similar seminar annually, probably with alternating academic co-sponsors. The Centre is very pleased to have had the opportunity to initiate, with the Council, this important link between the Council and the research community. 


Cyprus’s Bi-Communal Joint Contact Room

In collaboration with the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, the Centre held a workshop on Cyprus’s Bi-Communal Joint Contact Room from an international perspective. Cyprus has been a divided territory since 1974, with the UN providing a green buffer zone across the island. The Joint Contact Room (JRC) was established in 2008 in a Bi-Communal effort to facilitate exchange of information between police forces. Its members – chosen with the approval of their respective administrations – serve in a personal capacity. Due to the strictly-adhered-to politics of non-recognition of the entity in the North, no structures for the handing over of suspects and evidence between the two communities exist – a situation that led to a successful human rights complaint by the family members of victims of a triple murder committed in the South, when the identified suspects, having crossed the boundary line into the North, remained unprosecuted. The future of the JCR and its potential to contribute to effective criminal justice and peacebuilding on the island of Cyprus were explored at this workshop.


Book Launches

Book launch of Re-Reading Beccaria: On the Contemporary Significance of a Penal Classic, edited by Antje du Bois-Pedain and Shachar Eldar (Hart, 2022)

On 10th November 2022, Re-Reading Beccaria: On the Contemporary Significance of a Penal Classic, was launched at the Institute of Criminology's Guest Seminar Series, with keynote speeches from Professors Shachar Eldar, Lorenzo Zucca, Anat Scolnicov, Antje du Bois-Pedain and Paul Roberts, followed by a discussion chaired by Prof Leo Zaibert

Book launch of the volume Penal Censure: Engagements Within and Beyond Desert Theory, edited by Antje du Bois-Pedain and Anthony E. Bottoms (Hart, 2019)

On 9th May 2019 Penal Censure: Engagements Within and Beyond Desert Theory was launched as one of the events celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Institute of Criminology, with a panel discussion featuring two of the book's contributors: Professor Matt Matravers and Professor Chris Bennett.

Book launch of the volume Sentencing Multiple Crimes, edited by Jesper Ryberg, Julian Roberts and Jan de Keijser (Oxford University Press, 2018).

The volume Sentencing Multiple Crimes arose from an international conference held at the University of Oxford in December 2015, to which the Penal Theory Centre had contributed financial support. Two members of the Centre, Professor Bottoms and Dr Natalia Vibla, contributed chapters, in Dr Vibla’s case based on her Ph.D. research which was supervised by Professor von Hirsch.

Sentencing for multiple crimes is a common feature of the daily work of courts, but it raises significantly difficult ethical issues that have been largely neglected by sentencing theorists.  The Centre therefore decided, with the active support of the editors, to hold a seminar in January 2018 to mark the publication of this volume.  The seminar was chaired by Professor Nicola Padfield, Master of Fitzwilliam College, with Professor Roberts, Professor Bottoms and His Honour Judge Jonathan Cooper as speakers. The event drew a large audience, including members of the staff of the Sentencing Council.


Review of the Work of the Sentencing Council

In the spring of 2017, Professor Bottoms was commissioned by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales to conduct a short internal Review of the work of the Council, focusing in particular on ways in which it might be able to fulfil its statutory responsibilities more effectively. This work, in which Professor Bottoms was assisted by Dr Jo Parsons, a graduate of the Institute, was completed in May 2017, and was based partly on desk research and partly on interviews with members and staff of the Sentencing Council and other relevant persons. Early in 2018, the Sentencing Council decided to publish Professor Bottoms’ report, which was formally published in April of that year, accompanied by a short Response from the Council. Subsequently, the report and the Council’s response were the subject of an Editorial in the Criminal Law Review by Professors Andrew Ashworth and Nicola Padfield ([2018] Crim. L.R. 609-611).